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Iowa's Veterans in Agriculture receive USDA grant

Program helps military vets become connected with farming and the food system.

Rod Swoboda

October 7, 2020

2 Min Read
Combine in cornfield
RESOURCES AVAILABLE: “We offer programs and guidance for veterans aspiring to farm or seek employment in agriculture,” says Beth Grabau, VIA executive director. Rod Swoboda

Veterans in Agriculture, an Iowa-based organization assisting military veterans, is one of 17 recipients of a new grant from USDA’s Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program. With this funding, VIA will work together with several other groups in Iowa on a three-year project known as Connecting Veterans to Agri-Food System Opportunities.

Teaming with VIA on this new program are the Iowa Foundation for MicroEnterprise and Community Vitality; the Iowa State University Extension program known as Farm, Food and Enterprise Development; Ag Ventures Alliance; and ISU’s Beginning Farmer Center.

When returning to civilian life, many veterans are interested in developing careers in agricultural enterprises and food system industries. Supporting these transitioning members and veterans is important for sustaining food and ag systems across rural America, as 46% of active U.S. military personnel are from rural areas.

Also, about one-third of Iowa’s farmland is owned by people over age 75, whereas only 2% is owned by people under age 35. Of all Iowa farmers, 68% report they have no adult children engaged in farming.

Helping new generation

These facts indicate the importance of connecting and educating a new generation of food producers and helping them access resources, land and food system opportunities, says Beth Grabau, VIA executive director.

The AgVets grant will equip military veterans with skills, training and experience for careers in agriculture and food production. It aims to increase the number of military veterans pursuing careers in agriculture through comprehensive, hands-on and immersive learning. “We are thrilled to have received this grant,” Grabau says. “It will provide an opportunity to meet the needs of veterans and those who are transitioning from military service.”

The approach of the new project is multifaceted to support different learning options for veterans as each veteran brings a unique set of skills, knowledge and interests. It will include hands-on learning, apprenticeship options with training curriculum and mentorship, and opportunities to explore:

  • local food system enterprises

  • traditional commercial agriculture opportunities

  • agri-food systems and value-added enterprises to supplement off-farm employment through technical assistance and mentoring options

Workshops offered

Additional workshops will be offered for transitioning farms or returning to the family farm, succession planning, whole-farm planning and enterprise management, as well as Community Food Systems certification for those interested in planning skills for food system sectors. Participants will have options to learn about ag technologies, startup ventures and rural angel investor networks.

“We are excited to be a part of this grant to provide additional concepts for food system development, in particular with farm and food businesses involving military veterans,” says Courtney Long, food systems program manager with ISU Extension.

Grabau adds, “Over the next three years, this dynamic project will increase awareness of local, state and federal programs for veterans in Iowa and the Midwest, and help build our veteran-owned and managed farm and food businesses.”

For more information about this grant and other programs available, contact Veterans in Agriculture at [email protected].


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About the Author(s)

Rod Swoboda

Rod Swoboda is a former editor of Wallaces Farmer and is now retired.

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